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Thailand’s Asian Institute of Technology develops a method to produce electricity from leftover waste

Thailand’s Asian Institute of Technology develops a method to produce electricity from leftover waste

An announcement
from the Bangkok Post highlighted the project developed by researchers from the
Asian Institute of
Technology
(AIT) in cooperation with the Loughborough University that is able
to produce power from leftover waste.

Researchers from the AIT campus, located
north of Bangkok, have developed an efficient way to produce power from leftover
waste.

The researchers spent two years working on
the project and have developed a food digester that eats leftovers and turns
them into electricity.

From AIT's School of Environment, Resources
and Development (SERD) Faculty, Professor Chettiyappan Visvanathan said, “Food waste accounts for
nearly half of municipal solid waste in Thailand.”

He explained that one of Thailand’s major
challenges concerns waste segregation and adequate food waste management. For
instance, the 133-hectare AIT campus produces about 1,680kg of waste every day.
60% of which is food waste.

Because of this, the campus provided the
perfect setting for the pilot run of the project, which could then be
replicated in other Thailand communities.

Prof Visvanathan said, “A sample of the
community food waste revealed a mixture of raw, cooked and overripe food, with
no formal method of segregation for disposal.”

The AIT research team, including Prof
Visvanathan and Prof Abdul Salam, decided to create an anaerobic digester on
campus after they have sampled food waste from the housing, the eateries and
the cafeteria.

The “Anaerobic Digester with Centralised
Monitoring System” was developed by AIT in partnership with Loughborough
University. The project was aided by funding from the British Council's Newton Fund.

The process starts with the collection of
food waste from the central AIT cafeteria, which would then be transported to
the project site located a few hundred paces away.

Waste is then pulverised and fed into a
reactor for digestion. The digester produces biogas and a nutrient-rich
bio-fertiliser from this waste.

Prof Visvanathan explained, “What we have
successfully demonstrated is producing 100m³ of biogas from the daily food
waste generated at AIT, which is an equivalent of 60 litres of kerosene or
167kg of firewood or 73kg of charcoal.”

He added, “Power generation from our plant
will be 187kWh, which can power about 1,000 15W LED lightbulbs for 12
hours."

The distinguishing factor of this digester
from others is its centralised monitoring system. Real-time data is provided by
a network of digesters to a central monitoring authority. A spike in the
temperature or any build up in pressure can be identified and remedied
immediately. Information on temperature, acidity along with the quality of
biogas generated can be monitored from a computer.

On a larger scale, the centralised monitoring
system can track numerous community-based biogas plants dotting the landscape. University
campuses, hospitals and gated communities have the greatest potential in
adopting this project.

Prof Visvanathan says that this joint Thailand
– UK collaborative research is in line with Thailand's Alternate Energy
Development Plan (AEDP), which calls for a decreased dependence on imported
sources of energy and for the decentralised generation of energy at a community
scale.

The pilot project seeks to convert waste to
energy, thereby ensuring availability of localised energy that can be substituted
for fossil fuels. Not only does the project ensure the sustainable management
of organic waste and on-site waste segregation, but it also reduces carbon
emissions and waste management expenses.

Connecting community-based plants to a central
monitoring system is an example of how biogas production can be linked to the
Internet of Things (IoT).

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